Deccan Chronicle

Authorities find it tough to do contact tracing in Tamil Nadu

Deccan Chronicle| T Sudheesh

Published on: April 2, 2020 | Updated on: April 2, 2020

With 110 new positive cases across 15 districts in the state, the count has shot up to 234 in Tamil Nadu

Representational Image. (PTI)

Representational Image. (PTI)

Chennai:  When the 21-day lockdown was declared by prime minister Narendra Modi on March 24, Tamil Nadu had reported just a couple of Covid19 positive cases, contrary to states like Kerala, Delhi and Maharashtra which were undergoing a time of turbulence due to the spiking positive cases.

Eight days down the line since the lock down, the number of Covid-19 cases like all other states went up in Tamil Nadu as well. On Wednesday alone the state has reported 110 positive cases across 15 districts in the state.

With this, positive cases shot up to 234 across the state. Out of this 234, 190 cases are those who attended the Tablighi Jamaat event in Nizamuddin of Delhi earlier in March.

Now the authorities face a challenge as the task of ‘contact tracing’ process turned mountainous due to the huge spike of positive cases.

State Health minister C Vijayabasker on Tuesday had tweeted to say "Contact tracing of Delhi travellers was in progress. (I) will share information on this tomorrow (Wednesday)".

However, the government has shared neither the information on contact tracing nor published a detailed flowchart on the positive cases so far.’  

The minister instead on Wednesday advised the people through his Twitter handle that he had been insisting on the role of self hygiene in preventing COVID-19.

"Wash hands often, don’t touch eyes, mouth and nose. Follow cough etiquette, stay home, and keep social distancing if you go out. These are simple things to keep the virus away’, he wrote.

Health secretary Dr Beela Rajesh, during a press briefing, had requested people who had contact with individuals tested positive to come out and report voluntarily so that they could arrange quarantine facilities to cure them.

Dr Rajesh also went on to say that so far 190 people who attended the Jamaat event in Delhi tested positive so far and 1618 people who attended the Tablighi Jamaat meeting had come forward and reported to authorities themselves.

She said that the department was in the process of preparing a flow chart of each individual who tested positive.

"For the last couple of days, every district collector’s office in the state is buzzing with phone calls from those who attended the meeting (in Delhi). We have also used multiple agencies for contact tracing. Tamil Nadu is forefront in the process of containing Covid-19’, she said  

The state police meanwhile on Wednesday came up with a mobile application for Covid-19 quarantine monitoring purposes. The police urged the people under quarantine through text messages to download and log in the application from their quarantine location. They patients have to turn on the ‘Monitor On’ option in the application and also should follow strict home quarantine protocols.

According to public health experts, contact tracing of people who came in contact with the Covid-19 cases is simply impossible with the existing human resources.

The positive cases, especially those who came from abroad and the Jamaat event in Delhi, may have come in contact with dozens of people while they travelled.

"It’s not about the returnees just imposing self-quarantine when they reach home, it’s about who all they met and who all they came in contact with before reaching home. The situation could get out of control if the authorities fail to take immediate steps to trace the people and conduct tests on them. Even if the government conducts tests, it neither knows how to do it nor has it the capacity to do it. Contact tracing of people in such a huge number is difficult but there is no other way", say authorities.

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